Drew Smyly had an excellent season out of the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen in 2013, with a 2.37 ERA , 21 holds and two saves along with top-notch peripheral ratios (9.6 K/9, 2.0 BB/9) over 76 innings (63 appearances). In 2012 he started 18 of the 23 games he appeared in for Detroit, with a 3.79 ERA over 95 innings in that role, so with the offseason trade of Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals it’s not surprising that Smyly will move into the starting rotation in 2014.
Should fantasy baseball owners believe any hype surrounding Smyly?
Smyly only spent one full season in the minors (2011) and he started the 2012 season in the big leagues, with a 4.42 ERA over his first 15 starts, before going on the disabled list with an intercostal strain in July. He spent some time with Triple-A Toledo after returning to health, and did not pitch particularly well (6.11 ERA over seven starts) before resurfacing with the Tigers in late August and finishing strongly (2.25 ERA in eight appearances-three starts).
Smyly is tough on both left-handed (.189 batting average in 2013) and right-handed batters (.242 last season), so to pigeonhole him as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen would be a mistake for both the Tigers’ organization and fantasy owners. Some of his success last year can be chalked up to a very low home run/fly ball rate (5.3 percent) that seems to not be sustainable, but that feels like nitpicking when trying to determine Smyly’s potential as a starter over a full season.
The Tigers’ lineup will give Smyly plenty of run support, so based on that alone a double-digit win total is a definite possibility, but the bigger concern for fantasy owners is the innings limit that he will have. Though the team has yet to pinpoint an exact number, 140-150 innings pitched looks like a reasonable assumption for Smyly this year since that would basically double his workload from 2013. There are definitely a lot of worse ways to round out a pitching staff in AL-only and deep mixed leagues, even with a ceiling on Smyly’s fantasy upside due to the innings limit he’ll have.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.